Generosity: Leadership’s Secret Sauce

'Generosity is giving more than you can, and pride is taking less than you need.' ~ Khalil GibranClick To Tweet

I am in book launch mode at the moment, and there are bucket-loads of things that need to be done. Editing, formatting, cover-designing, blurb-copy-writing… the list feels endless. And if I’m honest, overwhelming. I understand why some people write an entire manuscript and then never publish it. But the one thing that has overwhelmed me even more than the scale of work involved? The generosity of human beings to help out. Some of them people I’ve never met!


I have test-readers in Denmark, the US, and the UK, as well as right here in New Zealand. I have had offers of assistance in many areas, from cover design, to formatting, to marketing. Somehow, when you have a team like this behind you, the whole thing becomes a lot less daunting… AND you feel you owe it to everyone to actually see it through to completion!

All of which got me thinking about generosity, and how powerful it is… and yet how scarce it can be in your average executive’s office.

So in this article, we’ll take a closer look at why generosity is the Secret Sauce of leadership, and how to encourage it to thrive in your workplace.

What is generosity?

Generosity is giving something to someone else with no expectation of receiving anything in return.

That’s it.

Simple really.

You can twist it and turn it in all kinds of directions, but there really isn’t any more to it than this.

But this definition is helpful. Because it enables us to identify what isn’t generosity.

Giving something so that you can ask for or expect something in return isn’t generosity.

Giving something so that you look good isn’t generosity.

Giving something to assuage guilt isn’t generosity.

Four kinds of generosity to foster at work…

Generosity with time…

'True generosity is an offering; given freely and out of pure love. No strings attached. No expectations. Time and love are the most valuable possession you can share.' ~ Suze OrmanClick To Tweet

Everyone is busy. Time is likely your most valuable resource. Just as it is the most valuable asset of the managers and individual contributors you work with. Nobody has enough time, and nobody can make more time.


Which is exactly why sharing your time with your team will be valued so highly.

Take the time to say good morning, and get to know them a little better. Take the time to coach and support them a little more. Take the time to encourage them and you will begin to find that they do the same for others.

Generosity with credit…

'Being a leader requires being confident enough in your own decisions and those of your team to own them when they fail. The very best leaders take the blame but share the credit.' ~ Travis BradberryClick To Tweet

As a leader, you are expected to take responsibility for the things that go wrong. So it’s often assumed that you also get to take the credit when things go well.

And you could.

Or you could share it liberally with those around you who contributed to the success, ensuring that everybody knows that it wasn’t you, but a team of fabulous folks.

Generosity with feedback…

'Feedback is the breakfast of champions.' ~ Ken BlanchardClick To Tweet

Most managers hate giving feedback. They worry about it. They think about it. They mentally rehearse it. But they never give it.


And then they wonder why nothing changes!

Try and find something to provide feedback about everyday. Good things and not-so-good things. Honest feedback, from a place of generosity – trying to help the other person with no benefit to you. This is the best place for feedback to come from.

Most managers hate giving feedback, and also think they provide plenty of it.

Most team members feel like they don’t get any, and desperately want it – even the bad stuff. This is a win-win.

Generosity with opportunity…

As a leader, you make decisions everyday about who to allocate projects to. Big or small. And chances are you don’t pay much attention to who you allocate these projects to… chances are you allocate these projects to ‘a safe pair of hands’. Because then you don’t need to worry too much.

But the generous thing to do would be to offer the project to someone else…

Not the person who is most likely to deliver it successfully, but the person who stands to gain the most from delivering it successfully.

The positive consequences of generosity

Be generous with your time and people will invest their time in others.

Be generous with sharing credit and people will clamour to work with you.

Be generous with feedback and people will work hard to avoid disappointing you.

Be generous with opportunities and people will reciprocate when they can.

And while none of these things is the reason you should be generous… it’s not a bad set of consequences for something done with absolutely no expectation of receiving anything in return!

The First Time Manager’s Crash Course

The First Time Manager’s Crash Course is out now on Skillshare.

This is the first in a series of three programmes aimed at first time managers, helping them bridge the gap between the technical skills and processes that their employer (hopefully) is providing, and the leadership skills and insights they need to develop to be effective managers.

This course is for anyone who aspires to manage other people – whether in a formal management or team leadership role, or as a project manager without ongoing human resource management responsibility.

More importantly, it’s for those who have just been – or are about to be – appointed to one of these roles and are a bit anxious about what is involved.

Follow this link to get your first two months subscription for free…

Or share it so that others can benefit!


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